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County Crews Have Repaired Dozens of Water Main Breaks Since Mid-December

Arlington County crews have been working through holidays and frigid wind chill temperatures to repair dozens of water main breaks over the past three weeks.

Since Dec. 17, there have been 38 water main breaks, which have affected the water service of up to 1,500 residents, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Kathryn O’Brien. Five water main breaks happened New Year’s weekend, prompting crews to work through what is a holiday for many.

The county was especially swamped with water main repair calls this past weekend, the last hurrah of the recent Arctic cold snap. Of the 38 water main breaks over three weeks, 12 have occurred since Jan. 6. Of those, all but three have been successfully repaired, O’Brien said. (Three were still being repaired as of 3 p.m.)

DES officials say freezing temperatures create stress on water and sewer infrastructure, increasing the chance of leaks.

“When ground temperatures drop to the water main depth, the pipe material gets cold, but the water temp drops at a slower rate due to its movement,” explained Arlington Water, Sewer and Streets Bureau Chief Harry Wang. “Then the temperature difference of the pipe and water cause the contraction and expansion in the cast iron pipe because part of the metal was contracting due to cold soil and part was in water above freezing. Exceeding the tolerance results the cracks.”

Arlington has five repair crews — each with 5-6 members — available around the clock to repair water main breaks, O’Brien said, and they’ve been busy. However, they also have the gear and training to do their work in all conditions.

“Our crews work through all types of weather to repair water main breaks and ensure that residents have access to water regardless of the weather,” she said. “This means crews work through freezing temperatures, snow, rain and high winds. Crews have protective gear to stay warm and dry, take frequent breaks to warm up and follow other protocols to ensure their safety.”

Here are just a couple of the water main repairs taking place today:

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